As the snow starts piling up in the east, Palm Springs, California — where the average winter temperature is in the 70s and there’s always lots of sunshine — sounds awfully good.
No matter what time of year you visit, VillageFest is something you will want to include in your itinerary. Taking place in downtown Palm Springs on Palm Canyon Drive, this street fair is held on Thursdays, from 6 to 10 p.m. October through May and 7 to 10 p.m. June through September. There are plenty of places to park, including a garage, several lots, and on the street, and yes, you can bring your furry friends who are happy being on leashes. VillageFest is closed on Thanksgiving and occasionally due to rainstorms or wind, but local news channels will alert you if those rare experiences occur.
Dining street side
While our fine dining restaurants are open on Thursdays, it might be time to have a unique experience buying your evening meal from one of the many food trucks or booths at VillageFest. Trust me, if you weren’t hungry when you arrived, you will be, for luscious smells permeate the air. This is your chance to try ethnic foods from truck owners specializing in their food lane; the last time I was at VillageFest, I smiled when I saw a cart serving empanadas, which instantly brought me back to my days living in the Caribbean. Many of the food items are cooked right before you, much to the delight of children who enjoy watching their meals being prepared, and there are picnic tables on the north side to eat on.
Art for sale
Walking down the street, you will find it crowded, so make sure you slow down and take time to step into the artists’ booths, where they are ready to share information on their processes. During a recent evening, there was an artist from Santa Cruz with pieces featuring palm trees that would be great for gracing large spaces in hallways, fitting well into modernism decor. There are also photos, prints, and watercolor notecards of Palm Springs that will be perfect reminders of your visit to the area. One of the more popular vendors is Sue, who takes tin cans and turns them into the ideal night lights or candle holders. You will be mesmerized by watching her create them on-site.
As an added bonus, on Thursday nights, the Palm Springs Art Museum has free admittance from 5 to 8 p.m., a gift provided to the visitors and community by the city of Palm Springs. Check the museum’s website for details on the rotating exhibits.
Produce from our local farms
If you have visited the 26-foot high Marilyn Monroe statue on Museum Way, you can easily find where local farmers bring fresh produce to purchase. Dates come in several varieties, so be sure to ask for a sample; you may be surprised to learn they dance differently on your tastebuds with their unique textures. By the way, Coachella produces 95 percent of dates grown in the United States.
Our 350 days of sunlight annually allow farmers to grow produce here year-round, so you may be surprised how much is available. Also, you will find some delectable baked goods that are lovely with your morning coffee while enjoying our beautiful weather poolside.
Shopping is abundant
Yes, most local merchants keep their doors open during VillageFest, so you can buy the dress you saw earlier in the day. Or if you forgot your swimsuit or need a wrap for our cooler evenings, all of that is available. Small items that can easily be tucked in your suitcase for souvenirs or gifts can be found in the dozens of tented vendor booths. You will find everything from jewelry made out of paper, vintage clothing, candles, and specialty T-shirts to beautiful wood boxes and handmade pens.
VillageFest was initially created to draw more people downtown during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Now 22 years later, it has become an institution in Palm Springs. We residents make sure to take visitors there, and have our favorite vendors we patronize for unusual gifts, making it easy to send a little bit of Palm Springs culture off to friends. This event is near many of our Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels, making it even easier for you to explore this event that will help you learn, fill your senses, and enable you to check off items on your gift list.